It's half a century since the first Ford Capri, more than 30 since the last – and we still love 'em

By John Howell / Thursday, January 27, 2022 / Loading comments

You know you want it, right? Indeed, back in 1969 Ford launched the Capri with almost that tagline. “The car you always promised yourself.” If you couldn’t afford the high-roller stakes required for a two-door coupe from the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar or Mercedes, no problem. Finally, here was the chance to drive something in the same mould – something with a far swoopier roofline than the dowdy Hunter, Viva, or Cortina you were used to. The post-war good times had come to Britain at last.

Of course, for Ford this was the obvious way to go. It had launched the Mustang in the States and that hit the ground running, so it didn’t take a genius to work out that Europe should become similarly enthralled with a blue-collar coupe. But just to be sure of its sure thing, Henry Ford II put the same man who’d penned the ‘Stang in charge of the European version. Philip Thomas Clark did a fine job, because the Capri wasn’t simply a scaled-down Mustang for Europe’s narrower, windier roads.

It was distinctive in every way, other than its sporting spirit, and ended up not only being a huge hit in the UK and Europe, but also Australia, Japan and, believe it or not, America. If you walked into a US Ford dealer and it had a Mercury franchise as well, you may well have seen a Mercury Capri sat right next to a Mustang and had to take your pick. In the end, Ford sold very nearly 1.9 million Capris from a production run than lasted 17 years.

Everyone has their favourites, of course. The RS3100 perhaps, or the 280 ‘Brooklands’ as people colloquially refer to it because if its dark green paint. I drove the 280 from Ford’s heritage fleet a few years ago, and it was one of those old cars that surprised by being better than expected. Its performance would scarcely match a modern-day VW Golf 1.5, but that good-old Cologne V6 had a lot more character. It still felt pokey, revved crisply and sounded rude enough to make you smile. Even the five-speed ‘box had a well-oiled lightness about it – although you couldn’t rush the synchromesh.

I expected it to be a proper handful, too, bearing in mind that grown men had told me that the Capri was a lively thing when I was a nipper. It was a car for the hairy chested, they said. Sure enough, it didn’t drum up a huge amount of grip from its tiny 15-inch alloys and 195/55 tyres, but when the tail started swinging – at low speeds, at least – it was fun, not frightful. Even the ride was pleasantly absorbing and much less agitated than I’d imagined.

I was very tempted to pick a 280 to focus on today. After all, it was the final swansong, looks the biz, and we have a few of the 1,038 examples they made on sale in the classifieds now. What stopped me was the fact that a Mr. M. Bird wrote about one not that long ago, which he described as “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” And with just 942 miles on the clock and a £64,995 asking price, it was. I couldn’t top that.

Then I saw this 3.0 S. It has over double the mileage of the 280, but at 2,000 miles (after a full nut-and-bolt restoration) I think we can forgive it that, can’t we? The advert says “No expense spared,” and, after studying the pictures, I’d say that seems pretty accurate. It looks truly stunning, and not just the bodywork and those agonisingly good-looking, chequered-trim front seats with mesh headrests

The engine bay housing that 3.0 Essex lump is my favourite bit though. Everything from the jubilee clips to the alternator bracket look detailed to perfection. I hope you like it as much as I do. And would you look at that, I got all the way to the end without mentioning The Professionals…


Engine: 2,994cc, V6
Transmission: 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
CO2: N/A
Recorded mileage: 2,000
Year registered: 1980
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £39,990

See the original advert here

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